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Friday, July 19, 2013

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The City of Keys Chapter One

Hey everyone! I am writing a book. Here is chapter one. I hope you enjoy!


CHAPTER ONE

Charlie woke up on the floor of an empty room.

As he sat up, the faint streetlight from the window overhead illuminated the hair sliding over his eyes. His sweater caught one of the nails sticking up from a floor board, and felt foolish when his sleeve snagged it. He pulled and the thread broke loose. 
 
This was not possible.
 
He should be sleeping in his bed, not waking up in the middle of the night on the floor. Fear almost swallowed him. Charlie stepped gingerly over the gaps in the floor, noting that this area was the same size of his own room. It was incredibly dark. Feeling his way for the door, his outstretched hand finally made contact and pushed it with a creak.

Shadows slid over his clothes, while panic began settling in. Where was he? Where were his parents? His brother? Charlie shut his eyes and opened them again, hoping that somehow his surroundings changed, but the same bleak expanse surrounded him. And he just couldn't deny it. It was his apartment alright, where the identical kitchen entrance opened to the right, and the living room yawned beyond him... But he had to be mistaken. There wasn't a single piece of furniture in sight. There was no way that his family was evicted just yesterday.

The dim hallway stretched beyond him, where he supposed the doors lining it were also unlocked, and the apartments disused. The darkness deepened even more down the stairs, where the blackness had become so complete that his eyes saw nothing. Was there another way to get down? He didn't think so, unless he was going to jump out the window. More out of memory than sight, he took one unsteady step at a time, blinded.

His sneakers tread on the soft dust carpeting the lobby and by accident kicked up a cloud into his face. He braced for it and violently sneezed. Charlie tried to guess where the entrance door could be, but it just was not possible when it was pitch black. And not only that, but what if it was boarded up and he would never get out, and just die in this place?

He became incredibly frustrated. How could he have been living a normal life just yesterday, and now he was shut up in this vacant apartment building, a place where he until recently been living with his family and doing his geometry homework for Tuesday?

An explosion cracked the air and completely shocked Charlie. His heart beat wildly in his chest, and in the silence that later prevailed he was able to hear it. Horrible scenarios raced through his mind. What if there was someone with a gun here, alerted that there was a boy who had intruded -

Charlie sprinted towards the adjacent wall, feeling the rough texture for the door. He shuffled numbly to the left alongside it, until, there was... a handle!

He pushed it with a strong impact from his shoulders and it just barely opened. He tried it again and it moved with a loud groan. He had just stepped quickly through when it closed with a crash. Charlie winced. While proceeding into the night he gasped.

This was not his neighborhood.

It was dark on the sidewalk, just as it had been in the building but this time it was intentional. All the street lamps were off. Because of the partial darkness the stars were visible, glittering coldly overhead. But he also noticed that there were no lights gleaming in the windows of the neighborhood, which only meant one thing.

Everyone was asleep.

What time was it? He glanced at his watch but to his horror all of the hands were motionless. Alone on the sidewalk he felt exposed. All the cars were parked now by the curb and not a single one was riding down the street, which caused an eerie silence that lingered in the cold air. Charlie walked slowly to the right, on the lookout for signs of where he could possibly be. Part of the skyline created by contrasting buildings against the bright starry night seemed familiar, but he needed more evidence. He tried to notice any familiar landmarks such as stores, but without their neon signs it was impossible to tell. The lack of luminance in this neighborhood was really irritating.

As he turned the corner a light blinded him. It was so harsh after impenetrable darkness that it took him a moment to realize that it was an orange flashlight shining in his eyes. He closed them momentarily because spots danced across his vision. When he opened them again what he saw horrified him.

"Who are you?"

The husky voice startled him. A burly policeman observed him with disgust. "You broke the curfew. Do you know that? And don't you remember the consequences for that?"

"What do you mean?" Charlie said, surprised that his question came out so shaky.

The man stared at him without answering. He was wearing the strangest uniform Charlie had ever seen: a collared maroon jacket with green accents, a striped tie, and pants and gloves both navy. While carefully holding the large flashlight, he reached into his pocket and took out a familiar weapon ... and shot it.
 
It receded into empty space because Charlie had already ran when the man wasn't looking. His hands grew cold from the sound of the gun blast. He had almost made to it a subway station entrance webbed with caution tape, when the phony police officer let out an angry yell.

"You're not allowed down there!"

"I don't care!" retorted Charlie and jumped down an entire flight of stairs without a moment's hesitation. Pain and shock overwhelmed him as he landed just as a second flight began, crushing his right arm, and his heart stopped as he hurtled towards the floor headfirst.

He somehow managed to slow himself down by holding onto the first step with the tips of his shoes for a moment, before plunging into the darkness. He reacted by throwing out his arms to break his fall at the bottom. He crashed into a disoriented heap.

Out of fear of pursuit, Charlie leapt to his feet and crawled to the side just as light blazed the stairs. The boy began moving silently to the side, but was blocked suddenly by a gate. He froze as the impact of his body on the chain links made a shuddering sound.

But the flashlight went out, plunging Charlie into darkness again. He waited for a few minutes to make sure that man was not coming back, then groped his way in the dark.

When entering a subway station people first slide their cards, then pay a fee. There are only one way entrances. They can leave the subway without paying anything, but they certainly can't get back in. But Charlie wondered: Were there bar entrances in use where he could just crawl under, or the impassable revolving gates?

He walked past the stairs and outstretched his hands, noting the sleek touch of freezing metal. The bars. Charlie slid under without thinking and entered the subway platform. In this blackness he couldn't tell where the tracks were, so he dared not to move further for fear of falling over the edge. He sat down, confused and unhappy.

Questions had been burning though his head all this time. Where was he? Why was he here? And... This one troubled Charlie the most, because he wasn't sure if there was even an answer.

How was he to get back to his own world?

He closed his eyes as distress bothered him. There was no way he could go back aboveground, where the man was waiting for him like a hawk. First he would see if any subways stopped here. If not - which was a fearful possibility he did not want to admit - he would try going up again during the daytime, when there was no curfew.

Charlie had a plan, if not a stupid idea. If this indeed was his neighborhood and his subway as well, then he would take it to see his uncle down in Brooklyn.

Charlie stared out into the blackness for a long time, hopeful for a subway, but when none came he had to admit defeat. Tiredness suddenly swallowed him up like an ocean. He remembered it was the middle of the night. The boy curled up on the disgusting floor, recoiling at the urine-like odor. He took off his sweater and placed it behind his head on the wall, trying to sleep upright instead. At first troubling thoughts kept him awake but exhaustion finally won out.

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